Sunday, February 21, 2010

BMW S1000RR First Ride

Two Wheel Reviews

We recently picked up a new S1000RR to give our impression of this new bike from the German manufacturer and let's get this straight, right off the bat.
First Impressions: BMW S1000RR
This is the bike you need if you are in the market for a new liter bike this year.
The S1000RR marks a real change in direction from the typical bikes that come from BMW Motorrad. They set out to build a true Superbike again, and have jumped right back in to the deep end. Most people forget that the very first Superbike race ever held was swept by Steve McLaughlin and Reg Pridmore, each riding a BMW R90S. That was back in 1976 and BMW has been racing motorcycles on and off since then. But they are back in a big way with the new S1000RR.

You won't find the typical BMW oddities here. To truly be competitive, they have gone with what they knew worked at that level, with a conventional 46 mm upside-down front fork, radial brakes, double sided swing arm, chain drive, 4 cylinder powerplant, etc. But the boys from Berlin had to come out with something that would make their time worth the investment. There was no use in just adding an also-ran to the mix of sportbikes already on the market.

Upon first sitting on the bike, you notice the slim mid section and mild reach to the bars. It doesn't quite feel as tiny as the new Honda, but close. The sweep on the bars make it a comfortable ride without any extra strain on your wrists. The pegs are up high, but again, no more than any of the others. It is actually a fairly comfortable place for a bike of this ability. I'm glad that somebody remembered that even on the track, you have to be able to feel comfortable to be at your best. All controls fell easily to hand without searching and everything you touch feels top quality, with smooth damped buttons and switches.

Photo courtesy of BMW MotorradThe comprehensive instrument cluster includes a large analog tach, with digital displays showing speed, gear indicator, temp, adjustable shift light and a track recorder that can display last lap time, best lap, number of laps, accelerator position in percentage per lap, time per lap the brakes were applied, minimum and maximum speeds and the number of gearshifts. For all this information the instrument cluster can display, it was easy to read and use.

Brad tries out the new BMW near Turkey Mountain.The bike we rode had the Dynamic Traction Control (DTC) /Race ABS and the Gear Assist options. The selectable DTC/ABS sets up the bike to help you face whatever riding conditions you could throw at it, and is guaranteed to help you feel like a hero on wet roads (“Rain”), regular road conditions (“Sport”), a race track with supersport tires (“Race”), or a race track with slicks (“Slick”), all at the touch of a button. Even switching from mode to mode while underway.

I started my ride with the DTC switched to the Rain mode to get a feel for the bike. With Rain mode selected, the ECU softens the throttle response, restricts the output to a maximum of 150 hp, will not allow full throttle past a lean angle of 37 degrees and will not let the front tire leave the ground. I could really see where this would boost your confidence if riding on wet roads with this much motorcycle underneath you. It was a dry and sunny day, so Rain mode lasted a whole 2-3 minutes for me.

Das Motor

Photo courtesy BMW Motorrad
This is one of the more oversquare engines you will find in its class at 80 mm x 49.7 mm, but the torque is up to 83 lb-ft at 9750 RPM and they have technology on their side to augment the lower end and midrange. Help in this department comes in the form of two electronically controlled butterflies housed between the two connection pipes for the two inner and two outer exhausts, Variable length intake manifolds, variable fuel pressure and all of this is tempered by the E-Gas throttle, which is throttle-by-wire. What this means to the seat of the pants, is that the power comes on smooth and strong, no matter where you are on the tach.
Once the switch was set to Sport, the bike came alive. Suddenly the bike feels like I thought it should! Sport mode unleashes the full 193 hp and reels the DTC back in a notch. Coming up through the revs, it starts out smooth with no stumbles and continues to build in a wave that could only be properly described to somebody that has already ridden a modern World Superbike mount. The strong mid-range starts around 7000 RPM and shoots upward from there. Once you are past 10,000, the fun starts and continues to the 14,200 redline with the shift light flashing in your face. Grabbing another gear with the Shift Assist asks that you only nudge the shift lever to smoothly and quickly shift up. This can be done with the throttle held wide open and the engine at full song. The only sensation you feel, is a change in that wonderful exhaust note and a strong, continued pull. I found myself running it up through the gears, just to hear and feel the pull. Shifting back down through the gears is done with clutch, but I never found the slipper clutch complaining, even through a couple aggressive downshifts.

Everything is eerily controlled and once you realize that, it gets even easier to exploit all of this technology.

Once you have to reign in all of the fun, the brakes do not disappoint. Up front, the radial mounted 4-piston calipers are squeezing 320 mm discs and a single piston, floating caliper on a 220 mm disc in the rear. This is controlled by a radial master cylinder up front that has excellent feel and strength. They have been criticized for being a little sensitive by some, but I found the brakes perfectly to my liking. The ABS never seemed to intrude when it wasn't asked to, but was there to varying degrees, depending on what mode you have selected. Choose Race mode and you can step the rear end out a little entering a tight corner. Or choose Sport or Rain mode and the ABS operates at a much more conservative level, keeping everything in line.

This marriage of solid engineering and electronics seems to work and there's evidence it's paying off. In 2008 BMW Motorrad USA was one of only two manufacturers that gained ground. Last year, when most motorcycle makers were losing their shirt, BMW sales slumped 22 percent. While that might not sound too good, it's actually the smallest decline among all motorcycle brands.

We can't wait to get it on a track for some comparison tests and hope the Big Four  have taken notice. After spending some time with the new BMW, all I could think about is sneaking it back to my own garage for some "long term testing."

Ready to Ride?
find your nearest BMW motorcycle dealer

 - Words by Brad Mathison, Images by Rex Brown

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Two Wheel Oklahoma is a television travel show featuring the motorcycle rides of Brad Mathison and Rex Brown along the scenic highways and backroads of Oklahoma.

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Brad and Rex: co-hosts of Two Wheel Oklahoma